ROCKINGHAM — Sometimes that old Raider Magic never fades away.
Brad Denson, Wesley Jackson and Larry Lindsay, players on the undefeated 1998 state champion Richmond Senior football team, needed some that magic as members of Stick of Butter, a flag football team, during the USFTL national championships last month in Kissimmee, Fla.
The team rolled through pool play with two wins, garnered the No. 2 seed in bracket play and earned a bye in the first round. Stick of Butter knocked off a team from Salisbury, Md. in the quarterfinals before running up against Team Vapor out of Pittsburgh.
Stick of Butter trailed in the final minute and needed a little assistance to overcome its deficit.
“We got the ball with 48 seconds left and had to go the whole field,” said Jackson, the team’s quarterback. “We got the ball down to the 1 with about 8 seconds left in the game.”
Then what happened on the final play brings back thoughts of Raider Magic. Jackson received the snap, is rushed from his right, moved to his left before taking a step back. As he does this, he lofted a pass off his back foot into the end zone. Denson broke free from his defender to the middle of field and jumped in the air.
Jackson’s pass and Denson’s leap are perfectly timed. Denson snags the ball as the defender attempted to recover and knock the pass away. The pair fell into the middle of the end zone and Denson lifted the ball in the air with one hand as the referee signaled for a touchdown.
“No certain play was called, didn’t have time, just get lined up,” Denson said. “I honestly just hesitated off the ball to try and find the open area to get into. I told the guys afterwards, it looked like a beach ball hanging in the air.”
After pulling out the 25-20 last-second win over Team Vapor, Stick of Butter defeated Smashmouth, out of Baltimore, 32-20 to win the 5-man contact B-Flag national title.
“It ranks up there with the 97 and 98 state championships,” Jackson said. “This is our third time at the national championships and I thought we would win it this year or next year.”
“It ranks up there with winning the state championships in football and conference championships in college for baseball. Something all of us will remember for a long time. I told the guys I was retiring from flag football if we won it all, but I think I may end up retracting that decision…time will tell.”
In addition to Denson, Jackson and Lindsay, three other Richmond County residents were members of the team — Mikey Knight, Dominique Powell and Nate Robinson, who was a first-team All-America selection as defensive back at Northeastern State. The remaining players are from Southern Pines (Darrell Toomer) and Raleigh (Jeff Cole, Chris Knight, Phil Oates, Eric Plunkett, John Sindone and Randal Ware).
Jackson was named the tournament’s offensive MVP and Lindsay snagged defensive MVP honors. Denson and Plunkett were named to the offensive all-American team, while Knight and Robinson were selected for the defensive squad.
Stick of Butter also competed in the 4-man and 7-man tournaments but were knocked out in the quarterfinals.
After capturing the 5-man championship, Jackson said his focus is to win another title, but in another division.
“This year I want to try to win the 4-man,” he said. “That’s my plan.”
Stick of Butter is expected to compete in the 11th annual Miller Lite Weekend Warrior Flag Football Tournament April 12 to 13 at Bank of America Stadium and the Carolina Panthers’ practice fields.
To see highlights from Stick of Butter’s last-second win over Team Vapor, visit http://vimeo.com/84628289
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.